Liverpool-bound Naby Keita shows the good and bad as he scores in Leipzig win

Alex Rea 14/01/2018
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Farewell goal: Naby Keita

Naby Keita was among the scorers as RB Leipzig moved above Schalke and into second place in the Bundesliga with a 3-1 home victory over the Gelsenkirchen outfit.

Amid continued talk about the possibility of his move to Liverpool being brought forward from the summer to this month, Keita gave the hosts the lead in the 41st minute with a strike from outside the box that took a considerable deflection off Naldo.

Here, we analyse the performance of Keita before he was substituted in the 68th minute.

STATISTICS 

Goals – 1

Assists – 0

Shots – 1

Shots on target – 1

Touches – 41

Passes – 24

Key passes – 2

Dribbles – 1

Dispossessed – 2

Goalscorer: Naby Keita fires home from range

Goalscorer: Naby Keita fires home from range

EFFECTIVENESS 

With Keita in the starting XI, speculation an early move to Anfield is imminent would appear premature. Neither the player, Liverpool or RB Leipzig would want to risk injury so close to a switch but regardless there are plenty of takeaways from his peformance.

Deployed in a midfield trio with boss Ralph Hasenhuttl opting for a 4-3-3, Keita operated on the left in a role similar to that of Philippe Coutinho when he was tasked in an attacking midfield spot. Keita, though, showed why he’s a different animal entirely to the Brazilian.

Coutinho is full of flare and jinks his way past defenders with acute skill and while the Guinea international displayed his dribbling ability, it’s born out of his powerful running.

Time and time again he drove the Schalke backline into retreat and his positional sense to take up dangerous spots in behind the defence had their holding midfield Max Meyer struggling to hold him down.

He was Leipzig’s attacking thrust as he slalomed into the box, with or without the ball, and it was like watching a Ferrari navigate the turns of the Nurburgring.

On two occasions in the first 45 he powered past defenders into dangerous positions and a penalty shout in particular showed his class after a quick one-two following neat work out wide put him in threatening territory.

Granted, his goal arrived with a slice of fortune from a deflection off Naldo but the fact is he deserved that luck for constantly demanding the ball.

He was efficient and effective but the second 45 brought the obvious sign of improvement required.

Keita wants the ball all the time, whether from his teammates or from the opponent but that eagerness can cloud his judgement and he frequently committed fouls. They were reckless and mistimed and he was often miles away from the ball.

It’s why after a yellow he was shortly brought off because the 22-year-old was heading for the tunnel if it wasn’t the bench.

A display which is a microcosm of his season – the good and bad.

KEY MOMENTS

12th min PENALTY SHOUT: A real indication of Keita’s attacking thrust as he gathers the ball wide left, shows neat footwork to sprint past his man and a quick one-two releases the midfielder into the box before Benjamin Stambouli dives in to ricochet the ball out. Keita wants a penalty but the official waves for a goalkick.

27th min FOUL: The foul count is totting up already as just inside the Schalke half, Keita needlessly chops Alessandro Schopf’s standing leg before an aerial ball even drops near the pair.

33rd min CHANCE: Formidable acceleration from the Guinea international as again Keita drives into the area only for Naldo to slide across to divert his threatening pass out for a corner.

41st min GOAL: Kevin Kampl slaloms his way down the left and he cuts the ball inside to Keita who in a central position has time to smash a thunderous strike which looks destined for the bottom corner only for a slight deflection to take it down the middle. No celebration from the 22-year-old – a sign he’s off?

53rd min YELLOW CARD: And that’s his fifth booking of the season which means he’ll be suspended for next Saturday’s clash with Freiburg. Good tracking back from Keita but he overstretches trying to dispossess Schopf and concedes a freekick. A cumulative yellow rather than for the individual challenge.

68th min SUBSTITUTED: On that yellow card, Keita is brought off for Yussuf Poulsen.

Subdued: Naby Keita after scoring the opener

Subdued: Naby Keita after scoring the opener

OUR VERDICT

Positives: energy, pace, positional intelligence and efficiency on the ball. Negatives: reckless and mistimed challenges.

The display against Schalke was a microcosm of what Keita offers. His virtue and vice is that he relentlessly seeks the ball but it’s for that reason he commits so many fouls.

Still, he was superb in the first half and that alone will be enough to provide plenty of excitement for Liverpool supporters.

RATING: 7/10

All statistics are compiled using whoscored.com

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Gareth Bale substitution bizarre as Welshman is Real Madrid's main threat in Villarreal loss

Alex Rea 13/01/2018
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Welsh Wizard: Gareth Bale

Real Madrid risk falling further behind in La Liga after a cheeky late chip from Pablo Fornals saw Villarreal escape the Santiago Bernabeu with a shock 1-0 win on Saturday.

Fornals struck with three minutes left to leave Zinedine Zidane’s side fourth and a whopping 16 points behind runaway league leaders Barcelona, a deficit which will turn into 19 should Barca win at Real Sociedad on Sunday.

Here, we analyse the performance of one bright spark for the home side – Gareth Bale.

STATISTICS 

Goals – 0

Assists – 0

Shots – 3

Shots on target – 0

Touches – 25

Passes – 17

Key passes – 2

Dribbles – 2

Dispossessed – 0

EFFECTIVENESS 

The last time Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo played in a two up front, they tortured Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League.

Indeed, the Wales star produced one of the finishes of this season and laid on an assist for Ronaldo while overall the performance in Dortmund was Madrid’s best this term.

Zinedine Zidane pinned his hopes on that dynamic combination baring fruit against another team in yellow as he deployed a 4-3-1-2 with Isco in behind – this time, only Bale turned up.

That his substitution in the 70th minute was met by collective jeers from the Bernabeu crowd is justification for the forward’s impact.

He dropped deep to contribute in the early attacking phases with Isco, peeled off his marker to provide an aerial threat in the box and leaned on his incisive passing ability to thread threatening balls into Ronaldo.

Bale was the fulcrum of their forward play and his somewhat surprising chemistry with Isco routinely had Villarreal’s backline in retreat.

Truthfully, the 28-year-old was the sharpest of any Madrid attacker and he didn’t appear tired when brought off in a double sub as Isco also exited.

The reality is that a wasteful Ronaldo should have been the man swapped out and ultimately Zidane paid the price for a strange switch which sucked the tempo out of Real.

Yes, there is an argument Bale’s injury record requires a degree of protection but a player of his quality shouldn’t be substituted.

Brought off: Gareth Bale

Brought off: Gareth Bale

KEY MOMENTS

14th min DISALLOWED GOAL: A Toni Kroos corner from the right drops onto the head of a crowded Ronaldo but the ball pops to Bale at the backpost. However, his close-range header is flagged offside to deny Real an opener. Marginal decision.

28th min LINK-UP PLAY: Breathtaking from Bale on the counter. The Welshman is the outball on the right as Dani Carvajal clears a corner and his first touch is to cut inside his man before spreading the ball to Luka Modric with the outside of his foot. The Croatian releases Ronaldo who just has Sergio Asenjo to beat but his delicately lifted effort drifts wide.

30th min PASS TO RONALDO: Superbly weighted ball from Bale to Ronaldo and the Portuguese surges into the box but his thunderous strike from the right is narrowly wide of the post and slams into the side-netting.

35th min PENALTY SHOUT: Nice interplay between Marcelo and Kroos allows the former space to whip in a cross to the near post from the left. Bale gets in front of his man to glance a header across goal and although the connection is far from clean, the ball strikes Alvaro Gonzalez on the arm. The official waves away the appeals for a penalty, though.

43rd min SHOT: Isco glides through the middle and feeds Bale who just creeps onside outside the box. The forward turns back onto his weaker right foot but his curled effort sails wide. On his left, that likely flies in.

70th min SUBSTITUTION: Bale and Isco are brought off in a double substitution as Lucas Vazquez and Marco Asensio are brought on.

On the move: Gareth Bale jinks his way past Jaume Costa (L)

On the move: Gareth Bale jinks his way past Jaume Costa (L)

OUR VERDICT

Madrid’s only genuine source of threat in attack and his link-up play with Isco impressed. Ultimately, the substitutions were bizarre from Zidane and they sucked the life out of the hosts.

Perhaps if Bale had remained on the pitch the winner would have been Madrid’s rather than Villarreal’s.

7/10

YOUR VERDICT

All statistics are compiled using whoscored.com

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Spartak Moscow in racism storm following offensive tweet against their own players

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Pedro Rocha was among the players featured in the video.

Spartak Moscow are at the centre of a racism row after their official Twitter account posted a video of three black players in training alongside a caption which translates as “See how chocolates melt in the sun”.

The message was accompanied by several emojis of laughing faces and chocolate bars above a 13-second clip showing the players, reported to be Brazilian trio Fernando, Luiz Adriano and Pedro Rocha, smiling while stretching in sunny conditions.

The anti-discrimination group Kick It Out condemned the Russian club, writing a response on Twitter which read: “This social media post from the official account of Spartak Moscow only continues to highlight the prejudices towards black people in Russia.

“It is a reminder, that along with the whole of football, there is significant work to do to eradicate racism of all forms from the sport.”

Piara Powar, executive director of football Against Racism in Europe, believes the message from Spartak is troubling as Russia builds towards hosting the World Cup later this year.

He told BBC Sport: “Racism is one of the biggest issues Russia faces in the year they host the World Cup. References like this show how some minorities are seen by some in the country.

“For Russia’s biggest club to tolerate and then celebrate racist references of this kind is wrong.”

The controversial Twitter post was later deleted from Spartak’s official page.

It is the third time in a matter of months Spartak have been embroiled in a controversy over racism.

They were ordered to partially close their academy stadium for one fixture by UEFA, which found some of the club’s fans were guilty of racist behaviour towards Liverpool striker Bobby Adekanye during a Youth League match in September.

Last month, Spartak defender Leonid Mironov was charged with racially abusing Reds striker Rhian Brewster following an incident during the return UEFA Youth League clash between the sides at Prenton Park.

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